SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal - June 2019

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 73 of 114

Only The Strong Survive The BaJa terrain takes its toll on many of the car and truck classes By Dan Sanchez Photos By Get Some Photos The only thing racers could be sure of during 51st SCORE Baja 500, is that the Baja terrain is unpredictable, and changes during the course of the race. By the time the truck and car classes exited out of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Stadium at the Estero Beach resort, the course was much different than what they had pre-ran a week earlier. High-powered vehicles churn up the ground and made the silt beds deeper, making it extremely more difficult for many classes. Some of the first to enter into the churned-up course after the SCORE Trophy Trucks were the truck classes. “I would have to say that this is probably one of the most challenging, technical and rough courses that we have raced in the last five years,” said Jeff Proctor, driver of the Class 7 number 709 Honda Ridgeline. “It was just brutal out there from the first five miles of the race with bottlenecks and silt. We were just warriors out there all day fighting and overcoming a mechanical issue with a hub and getting stuck a couple of times.” Proctor battled with 2018 Class 7 Champion Dan Chamlee in the number 700 Ford Ranger, who is one of the most consistent drivers in SCORE and has a high finishing rate. Proctor started in the back of the class and had enough horsepower to overcome an hour difference in time with the class leader. “We just kept fighting and just passed for the lead about 20 miles out from the finish,” said Proctor. “We just finished this truck on Friday at 5 a.m. and we won. I can’t thank our team enough.” Aiding Proctor were co-drivers, Pat Dailey and Evan Weller. Chamlee finished in second place but because of his persistence and consistency, has a huge lead in the class points standings towards another championship season. Chamlee split the driving duties during the race with co-driver Kurt Kimball. Gerardo Novelo battled against legendary racer and vehicle builder Mike Leslie in Class 7SX. It was Novelo’s Nissan Frontier, against Leslie’s Jeep Comanche, making for a unique pairing for the race in this class. Novelo co-drove with Jose and Jesus Castro and son Gerardo Novelo Jr. In a rare opportunity, Leslie had vehicle problems allowing Novelo to take the class win. Although it was disappointing for Leslie who came out of retirement to race this season, he still leads the points standings in this class and can significantly increase it at the next Lucerna SCORE Baja 400 race. Class 8 racers also had a difficult time with the terrain but the number 852 Ford F-150 of Spenser Morgan persevered. Morgan won the class with his son Spencer Morgan Jr and Rhett Morgan co-driving the vehicle to the finish line. Morgan now leads the class towards a championship season, as does Ed Muncey in the Baja Challenge Class. Muncey won the class in the number BC4 car with co-drivers Bruce Hendel and Andy Deel. Dustin and Neil Grabowski driving the number 527 car in Class 5, managed to keep their vehicle on the course and intact to finish the race and win. “The course was really gnarly this year, especially the end,” said Dustin Grabowski. “The finish was super tight and just silty. It seemed like at every single corner the course wanted to suck you off a cliff. We will be back for the SCORE Baja 1000.” VW Powered Racers Never Quit Perhaps one of the most difficult classes to race in and win are the VW classes. Not only does the class pit talented drivers against each other with a nearly level playing field of vehicles, but they also have some of the most difficult time challenging the Baja desert and a brutal course that has been decimated by the hundreds of vehicles that leave before them. A good example was in Class 5-1600, where David Heredia, along with co-drivers Marco Robles and Pedro Avalos in the number 571 car, fought a hard course to finish and take home a class win at the 51st SCORE Baja 500. It was just as tough for the Class 1/2 1600 racers, in which half the field of starters managed to push through and finish the race. The number 1616 car of Angel Barajas, with co-drivers Eli Yee, and Alejandro Corona finished first to win the class. “The start of the race was very difficult,” said Heredia. “The main thing was not to lose your head and to focus on getting your line. The first 30 miles were very technical. You had to make good decisions, or it was going to cost you. After mile marker 70 in San Felipe, it opened up and it was much better for speed on that part of the course.” Finishing second in class was Adolfo Arambula in the number 1650 car. Arambula was aided by his son Adolfo Arambula, along with Carlos Gavoldon, and Eduardo Acevedo. “My dad started the race and had a little problem nine miles into it where he got stuck,” said Alan Arambula. “He continued without problems until mile marker 190. Eduardo took over and had no issues at all during the course until mile marker 340 where I got in to finish the race with no problems. Very difficult course, also very challenging. The new part of the course was unexpectedly difficult, but it was worth it every race mile.” Finishing third in class was the 1609 car of J. David Ruvalcaba, with Leonel Ruvalcaba, Esteban Cruz, Rogelio Panda, and Albert Cruz. Fourth place went to Martin Rengel in the number 1626 car, co-driven by Cody Snedden and Alfredo Valtieria. SCORE Lites racers utilize some of the largest displacement VW engines of all the VW classes, but that didn’t help them get through the difficult course any faster. Ultimately Matias Arjona IV in the 1202 car, finished first to take the class win and moves closer to competing for the class championship with second place finisher Freddie Willert in the number 1206 car. Arjona battled with Willert all day long and was aided by co-drivers Matias Arjona III, and Francisco Pena. Willert was aided by co-driver Stan Potter. “I think the SCORE Baja 500 is probably one of the toughest races,” said Potter. “People talk about the SCORE Baja 1000 as being the toughest, but I’ve won the SCORE Baja 1000 three times, and this [ SCORE Baja 500] is the hardest race. It is so technical, and it just takes everything to go right and it didn’t go right for us today. I got a flat and we had some issues with the starter and the battery went dead. Freddie had some issues, but all in all, we still got second place. You have to be patient and when it looks bad, you have to keep going. That is the spirit you have to have, or you won’t finish racing. Congratulations to Matias Arjona on the win.” Finishing third in class was the 1208 car of Rich Roberts, with Kirk Contils, Chris Godfrey, and Rob Martensen co-drivers. “We beat the SCORE Baja 500 for sure,” said Roberts. We fought and battled all day long. We had highs and lows and we were getting passed by third place all day long and in the end, I got by him after we lost a power steering belt and had to stop. All the devils were in the last 30 miles and I had to drive on it because there was no place to stop with a flat tire. I got stuck in the silt and got hit by a SCORE Trophy Truck which knocked the wires off, so the engine wasn’t running good. We had some locals pulling on the tow strap by hand to get us out after we got stuck and then we got to the finish line. Incredible!” SJ

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